News Articles

At inner-city mission, he was stirred by ‘how badly they wanted to work’

NEWPORT, Ky. (BP)–Attending an inner-city worship service a year ago proved to be an eye-opening experience for Del Brown.
He had accompanied the youth group from Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, Alexandria, Ky., across the Ohio River to a downtown Cincinnati mission to help serve a meal.
During a pre-dinner service, the computer programmer was surprised to hear several audience members lamenting their lack of a job.
At first, “I thought they were lazy,” he recounted. “But they were talking about how badly they wanted to work.”
Inspired, Brown set out to see if it would be possible to organize a computer-training class to improve mission’s residents’ earning power in the job market.
His employer donated 50 computers, which the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association is storing until classes begin this summer. The first session will have up to a dozen students.
First Baptist Church of Newport, Ky., agreed to provide space in its educational building for the labs. Some computers may be loaned to students so they can do additional work at home.
Brown has lined up 15 volunteer instructors from five churches. He estimates it will take 20 because of programmers’ hectic schedules.
“Computer pros have a difficult time serving in church,” he said. “They travel, work a lot of weekends and have beepers. The concept is to build a large pool so if someone gets beeped an hour before class, we have a backup to fill in.”
He applauded Rick Robbins, associational director of missions, with helping organize the outreach and provide names of potential volunteers.
Churches also are kicking in resources. A woman recently donated her old car, which Robbins sold in early January, to the association. He plans to put the proceeds into the program, since funds may be needed to purchase new software.
“With welfare reform, people are moving out of the system and many are unskilled,” Robbins said. “We feel with the computer school, we can provide a service in a Christian setting. We’re very excited about it.”
The project may also provide a needed spark to broaden the perspective of the inner-city church hosting the classes. First Baptist of Newport, though mixed racially and divided between city and suburban residents, attracts only 150 to 175 people on Sundays, a far cry from the days when it averaged 2,000 in Sunday school.
While only member has been able to volunteer to teach so far, pastor Ken Willoughby believes more will get involved closer to the starting date.
First Baptist isn’t the only church that has suffered decline in recent years, the pastor said. Newport’s three Methodist churches have consolidated into one, as have four Catholic parishes.
“There needs to be a church that can catch a vision of what can be done in Newport,” said Willoughby, who came to the northern Kentucky city two years ago. “I hope it will be First Baptist. That’s why I’m here.”

    About the Author

  • Ken Walker